Why smart companies are hiring and developing IT staff who understand business and technology

How often have you heard about the fast pace of change in the IT world and how hard it is to keep up?

That fast change used to be about hardware and software. The technology itself was the main focus and businesses were faced constantly with the decision to keep the current infrastructure or upgrade to the newer, faster, better servers, the next version of a software solution or a new solution that did more things better and faster.

While there is still pressure in this area, the impact of such emerging areas as cloud, big data, mobile, and distributed high performance computing (HPC), to name but a few, have made this less of a focus for IT planners and decision makers. But these very things that are relieving pressure in one area are increasing it in the area of IT skill needs and hiring.

No longer can companies afford to have IT staff that can only run the hardware and software and show the business part of the operation how to use the tools to do their piece of the work. Economist and IT analyst David Foote recently quoted in an article by Stephanie Overby at CIO.com stated that “It won’t be about the ability to simply configure and run a server or develop software in isolation. “ Foote maintains that a new breed of IT worker is needed, one with …”multi-dimensional talent — combinations of technology, domain, business, process, and people skills, orchestrated in a proper balance to deliver specific solutions.”

It appears businesses are starting to get the message that a significant change is occurring that will require a retooling on the IT Human Resources side. A recent Gartner Research report identifies “Four independent forces — social, mobile, cloud and information — (that) have converged as a result of human behavior, which creates a technology-immersed environment … The combination of pervasive mobility, near-ubiquitous connectivity, industrial compute services, and information access decreases the gap between idea and action. To take advantage of the Nexus of Forces and respond effectively, organizations must face the challenges of modernizing their systems, skills and mind-sets.”

This fundamental change brings IT and IT staff directly in line with the business side of things. No longer is it enough to be a good programmer, network admin, sys admin or DBA. Those who have these critical skill sets must also understand the business and how technology can maximize results. Gartner states that companies making this adjustment within their IT staff will be successful and maintain leading positions, while those maintaining a status quo operational and maintenance only skill set matrix will fall behind.

This is a critical change point for all businesses that use technology, for anyone considering an IT career, for anyone wanting to maintain or advance in their current IT career and for the many universities, colleges and other organizations charged with preparing the next generation of IT workers. In Canada a new kind of program, Business Technology Management (BTM), is growing across the country, preparing the exact types of graduates needed for the new converged world of iBusiness.

The industry-based Canadian Coalition for Tomorrow’s ICT Skills (CCICT) (now ITAC Talent) and the academic community envisioned and designed the Certificate in Business Technology Management. BTM graduates are business and technology trained and have worked shoulder to shoulder with industry professionals during their studies. The Simon Fraser University BTM program is the first of its kind in the country to be accredited by the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS). Graduates of the SFU BTM program are in high demand.

Other universities across Canada offer BTM programs and the number is growing. BTM is one piece of a required solution that is still being built. Those companies that recognize the changed world of IT as it relates to business and manage their workforce accordingly will move to the head of the line. For those who do not make the adjustment it will be a frustrating next ten years.

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